Diverse implications of Modi’s Russia visit

Diverse implications of Modi’s Russia visit

Narendra Modi’s Moscow visit aims to showcase India’s strategic independence and robustness of India-Russia ties

Follow Us :

Last Updated : 05 July 2024, 05:57 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Moscow next week for the 22nd bilateral summit, marking his first international trip of his third term. While the visit aims to further strengthen bilateral ties, it will also be closely watched internationally amid growing Western tensions with Russia.

Within India, the importance of its ties with Russia has always been recognised by almost all policymakers and analysts. However, as India's strategic ties with the United States and Europe grew, many in the West somehow underestimated the strength of these ties.

In the context of the Ukraine war, the world suddenly realised the importance of India-Russia relations once again. Despite a growing convergence on bilateral, regional, and global issues with the US and Europe, Russia remains a valuable partner for India.

In Why Bharat Matters, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India-Russia partnership is “subject of attention not because it has changed but because it has not”. Earlier, he argued that the world has changed, Russia has changed, India has changed but India-Russia has remained a “stable factor in international relations”.

Among the over 35 strategic partnerships signed by India, its ties with the US, the EU, and Russia are crucial for achieving economic and strategic objectives in both the Indo-Pacific and Eurasian regions.

Traditionally, the main pillars of the Indo-Russian relationship have been mutual trust, defence ties, nuclear power, and hydrocarbons. The commercial component of India-Russia ties remained weak until recently. However, with Indian companies purchasing discounted oil from Russia, bilateral trade between the two nations has surpassed $65 billion in 2023-2024. This is happening despite Western economic sanctions on Russia and its exclusion from the SWIFT system. As a result, Russia has become India’s fourth-largest trading partner, following China, the US, and the United Arab Emirates.

During the summit, leaders may seek to elevate India-Russia ties to the next level due to increased energy imports. They may also explore the real possibility of operationalising both the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.

Since Indian exports to Russia are still only about $4 billion, New Delhi may seek to explore mechanisms to boost its exports. Alongside new investments at the Chabahar port in Iran, India is also set to start negotiations for a free trade agreement with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which comprises Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

In addition to opening two more Indian consulates in Russia, the summit may also conclude a Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS). This agreement could facilitate mutual access to logistics and support facilities at each other’s military bases and ports.

Against Western condemnation and sanctions against Russia, New Delhi has taken a neutral stand over the war in Ukraine. Most official statements refer to it as a crisis or conflict rather than a war or Russia's war on Ukraine, as most Western countries prefer to call it.

India is concerned that Western pressure on Russia is causing Moscow to become increasingly dependent on China. However, India does not support the Western objective of a Russian 'strategic defeat’, believing that a stronger Russia is essential for maintaining a multi-polar world.

India has abstained from most UN resolutions against Russia. This stance aligns with many countries from the Global South, which, while uncomfortable with Russia's actions, do not support unilateral sanctions. They also do not agree with the narrative that solely blames Russia for the conflict. During its G20 presidency in 2023, India emphasised that its priority was developmental issues rather than the Ukraine war. New Delhi also managed to achieve consensus on the G20 Leaders' Declaration, which did not criticise Russia.

Amid major global concerns over food, fertiliser, and fuel security, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Putin in September 2022 that this is not an era of war, but one of dialogue and diplomacy. Modi missed the recent SCO summit in Kazakhstan, where Putin invited Ukraine to resume peace talks based on the 2022 Istanbul agreements. Modi has also met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky twice on the sidelines of G7 summits in Japan and Italy, promising that India will do everything to support a peaceful resolution. The Moscow visit will offer Modi an opportunity to understand the recent dynamics of the Ukraine war.

In the tense global geopolitical environment, Modi’s Russia visit aims to showcase India’s strategic independence and the robustness of India-Russia ties. While it may achieve limited outcomes, the visit will be warmly welcomed in Moscow and closely monitored in Western capitals.

(Gulshan Sachdeva is Professor at the Centre for European Studies and Coordinator, Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Jawaharlal Nehru University.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.


Follow us on :

Follow Us